What 'Breaking Bad' Said to Skyler's Critics

Toward the end of Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad, Skyler, surrounded by Walt Jr., Marie, and numerous police, receives a phone call from her husband Walt, who had just run away with their baby, Holly. He asks her if she's alone and she says yes, but viewers can easily tell that Walt knows she's lying. He's aware that the call is being recorded, and that's the reason he called in the first place; he knows that the only way Skyler can get out of the terrible situation he's put her in is if the police think that she's a helpless victim of abuse.

And so Walt makes things worse, before they can get better. On the phone, he screams at his wife with a fury we haven't seen him possess in a long time. He reprimands Skyler for revealing the truth to Walt Jr., calls her disrespectful and a "stupid bitch," and tells her how he kidnapped their daughter in order to teach her "ungrateful" self a lesson.

For most of the call, Skyler is furious and devastated, but she eventually realizes what Walt is doing — by acting like a manipulative, violent abuser, he's giving her an out. It's a blessing in disguise, and while it must hurt her enormously to hear her husband blame her for his actions, she realizes that it's necessary in order to guarantee her safety.

It's a fantastic scene, wonderfully written and acted, and it'll undoubtedly have huge effects on the remaining two episodes of the series.

It also prompts an interesting question: were Walt's demeaning insults the writers' way of acknowledging the public's hate towards Skyler? Entertainment Weekly writer Mark Harris certainly thinks so, and we have to agree:

It's long been known that many Breaking Bad viewers have issues with the character of Skyler. They call her "whiny," a "shrew," an unlikeable foil to Walt that has nothing better to do than to get in the way of his fun. Any rational fan of the show knows that this attitude towards Skyler is completely unfair, but unfortunately, there's no question that it's shared by a relatively large amount of viewers.

Even Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skyler, has acknowledged it, most prominently in a recent New York Times editorial called "I Have a Character Issue" that questioned fans' hatred toward a character who's done little, if anything, to deserve the wrath.

So, it's entirely possible that Vince Gilligan and his fellow Breaking Bad writers had two intentions when devising Walt's phone call to Skyler. First, that it'll make Skyler realize that Walt's protecting her, and second, that Skyler-hating viewers will get a very clear message: the demeaning names and unjustified insults Walt hurls at his wife didn't just appear out of the air. In fact, they're exactly like the things "fans" say about the character every time she appears on screen.

Even if this subtle dig at critics wasn't the writers' intention, it's still worth noting.

There's no question that they felt disgust when listening to Walt's insults — only a sociopath could have been unaffected by that scene — but if they also felt some degree of familiarity, then good. Skyler's never deserved the criticism she's received, and maybe Sunday's episode helped knock some sense into her haters.